What a perfect ending to Matt Besler’s third MLS regular season.
After becoming "harder" in the offseason – something head coach Peter Vermes puts a helluva lot of stock in – Besler was chosen as an All-Star for the first time in his young career.
As consistent of a performer as KC has had all season long, Besler locked down the center defense, which has plagued the squad the last few years and seen a cast of thousands swing through to try their hand before inevitably being cut.
Pablo Escobar anyone? Man, that seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it?
Saturday night in DC, Besler put the cherry on top of it all, scoring a nice left footed goal that won the game against DC United 1-0, and won the Eastern Conference outright for Sporting.
Can I type that again just for my own enjoyment?
SPORTING KC WON THE EASTERN CONFERENCE AND LOCKED UP HOME FIELD FOR THE MLS PLAYOFFS!!
After the game, Besler was as even keeled as ever, a trait he seems to be displaying more and more as he matures.
Where does he get that from I wonder?
Perhaps it’s his coach, who just so happened to play a few years at Besler’s position and was known for his no nonsense style both on and off the field. Not a bad guy to copycat. Especially when he’s also your coach.
So, either Besler was going to step up this season, get harder, be more of a presence in the back, or he was going to remain a role player with little leadership.
Besler obviously went the first route and his demeanor shows how much others on the team look to him for cues.
Never too high, never too low, just like Vermes.
"We never lost hope," said Besler after the game. "It’s a great feeling to come back from where we were at the beginning of the season. It shows the character of this team."
Sounds kinda like a mini-Vermes, right?
But really, one of the biggest accomplishments for this season, aside from the results on the field, is that the squad seems fully bought-in at this point. Remember, way back in March or April several key SKC players, including Besler, alluded to the fact that not everyone was buying what Vermes was selling in 2010. Some resisted the high pressure, frantic pace that Vermes so loves his team to play at.
Some players were sent packing, like Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff.
"Credit to the guys," said Vermes after locking up first place. "They put us in this position. They worked hard. They believed in what we were trying to do and they stayed committed to each other and the organization. From that part, I’m extremely proud because sometimes it’s easy to lose your belief and spirit and I think it’s just the opposite with this group of guys. That really tells you something for the long term – it’s not just right now – and that’s the part of it I’m very proud of."
I believe that, I really do.
KC has one of the youngest overall teams in the league, a manager who has a distinct vision that is paying dividends, an enthusiastic ownership group that equips its franchise with whatever they need to succeed, a pretty new stadium, and a rabid and rapidly growing fan base.
The arrow is most certainly pointing up.
As of the writing of this article the playoff schedule has not been set, but KC will host a home game on either November 2nd or 3rd. This will be their second game of the playoffs, with their first being played away at the lower seed’s home stadium on October 26th or 27th. It is a home-and-home format with the aggregate goal leader advancing to the next round.
Should KC advance, they will get at least one more home game in the conference finals round.
Tickets are on sale and will sell out guaranteed, so get ’em right now, people.